Hunt for Annapolis student pilot in 4th day

October 08, 1991|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Evening Sun Staff xHC JxB

The search for a missing student pilot from Annapolis who failed to return from a training flight moved into its fourth day today.

Members of the Civil Air Patrol, the Coast Guard and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police were continuing their search for the 30-year-old woman, who has been missing since Friday.

The woman's name has not been released at the request of her family.

Yesterday's search of the waterways between Easton and Annapolis involved 13 airplanes and several ground teams, but failed to turn up anything, said Maj. Mitzi Parks of the Civil Air Patrol.

The missing woman took off from Lee Airport in Edgewater, south of Annapolis, about 1 p.m. Friday on a solo training flight. The woman, who had been flying periodically for the past two years and had flown a successful solo flight before, was to fly from Lee Airport to Bay Bridge Airport on Kent Island, to Summit Airport at New Chesapeake City, Del., to the Easton Airport and back to Lee.

The woman was last seen by the radar at Dover, Del., at a time when she was flying over Millington, Del., Parks said.

Officials have been checking out various leads, including one that placed the woman in Easton, taking off for her return trip to Lee. Searchers have concentrated on the area between Easton and Annapolis because it is believed that the airplane, a Piper Cherokee, went down during the pilot's return trip.

Petty Officer Richard A. Martin, of the Coast Guard, said his agency's role has been to conduct a surface search by boat. Martin said searchers begin by investigating the area where it is most likely the pilot could have gone down, while taking into account the weather conditions during the time she disappeared.

Martin said searchers look for any debris that might lead them to the aircraft.

"It's not unusual for something to float for days, or for something to sink within minutes," Martin said. "It could be hidden just as easily in 10 feet of water as in 100 feet of water. There's no way to predict.

"Plus, the bay is so choppy. It makes it really hard to see things."

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police also have joined in the search for the pilot and her plane.

The search for the plane has been mainly visual, said Sgt. R. Scott Zimmerman, of DNR police's aviation division. The aircrafts have had their radios tuned to the emergency frequency in hopes of picking up a signal from the missing plane. However, Zimmerman said, generally the signal lasts only 48 hours.

Zimmerman also said he did not find it unusual for the plane to be missing this long without a trace.

"This is just my own summation, but considering the part of the bay we're talking about, the time of evening the plane disappeared and the time of the year, it's not unusual at all," Zimmerman said. "Even if she didn't go down in the water it's possible she went down in one of the nearby densely wooded areas. And there are a lot of leaves on those trees this time of year."

Zimmerman said that in the winter of 1980 a Department of Energy helicopter went down in Chesapeake Bay. The bodies of the two pilots were discovered but the helicopter was never found, he said.

And, three years ago, it took searchers a month to find an aircraft that went down in Chesapeake Bay carrying two men, Zimmerman said.

"We had a very good idea of the location where that plane went down but we just couldn't find it," he said. "The only reason it was found was because the father of the two men on board spent a lot of money to hire a private company in Annapolis to use side scanning sonar.

"With this plane, we don't have a specific location where she might have gone down. And we just haven't had any luck yet. No debris or landing gear. And usually they're the first thing to come off in a crash and float," Zimmerman said.

*

Anyone who may have seen the plane is asked to call the Civil Air Patrol at (301) 822-6013.

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